The Most Popular Phone in the World
October 20, 2010 6:35 AM   Subscribe

This is it. It's not the phone that would win a popularity contest in the U.S., but there are great reasons for it being the most popular phone in the world.
posted by Leta (86 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
I look back on all the times I've had ultra cheap, pay-as-you-go phones with great fondness. Typically that phone was some type of Nokia just like this one. It's really only when you have a traditional job in a stable location that you can afford the "luxury" of a smart phone, so if you look in your pocket and see a Blackberry, most likely you're "the man".

Still, I hope the Motorola FONE catches on. E-ink screen, a month of standby time, hundreds of hours of talk time on one charge, virtually unbreakable and quite stylish. It's the phone you'd want in the zombie apocalypse. It almost makes me feel like phones have been moving in the wrong direction.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:54 AM on October 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


So I am one of the folks out here that does not have a smart phone. My cell phone (the only phone I have) makes and receives calls. Period. Its main feature: It is durable and has a lon battery life. I have turned off the texting feature. My reasons: the cost of a tech plan is prohibitive and I have a laptop with wifi (for when I travel). I dig this article because it shows a durable phone making a huge impact on the lives of- well, everyone. Bravo.
posted by flyfsh_peter at 6:55 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Still, I hope the Motorola FONE catches on. E-ink screen, a month of standby time, hundreds of hours of talk time on one charge, virtually unbreakable and quite stylish. It's the phone you'd want in the zombie apocalypse. It almost makes me feel like phones have been moving in the wrong direction.

Can I get one for backup?
posted by grobstein at 6:57 AM on October 20, 2010


My mother needs a new phone. One that she can throw in her purse, use for calls and the occasional text message and has decent battery life. And at 80 plus years old, it should be easy to use and easy to read. This might just be it.

Interesting article. Thanks.
posted by Splunge at 6:58 AM on October 20, 2010


I think my mom's pay-as-you-go phone is pretty similar, although unfortunately not as rugged.

It's really only when you have a traditional job in a stable location that you can afford the "luxury" of a smart phone, so if you look in your pocket and see a Blackberry, most likely you're "the man".

And even this is starting to change with Virgin Mobile entering the month-to-month data market (they even have a Blackberry model). Of course, what Virgin Mobile can't offer is any sort of competent customer service.
posted by muddgirl at 6:58 AM on October 20, 2010


if you look in your pocket and see a Blackberry, most likely you're "the man".

Woohoo!
posted by amro at 6:59 AM on October 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


Is that a Blackberry in your pocket or....
posted by amro at 6:59 AM on October 20, 2010


Ah, the 1100, I have fond memories of that phone. When I was a lonely Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi, it was my lifeline.

Mass-texts among the other volunteers would serve as ways to organize meet-ups in the city. Plus, it was my only way to stay in touch with my girlfriend back home - that phone literally kept our relationship going while I was gone - we're now happily married.

The battery life was amazing - you could go a whole week without charging it. Good for when you're traveling across the country on the back of rickety pick-ups with no electricity hook-up for another 8 hours. And durable! I can't count the number of times that phone was soaked in a monsoon that came out of nowhere or dropped onto the unforgiving hard-packed dirt streets without a scratch.

The flashlight was key. You don't really get how dark it can be outside until you live in a place where there is no electricity.

Of course, being a rural area in a developing world, getting a decent signal was always a challenge. Pro-tip: Papaya trees make excellent signal boosters. Something about that long, straight and water-filled trunk, always added a few bars when I sat under one. You just have to watch out for the ants.
posted by i less than three nsima at 7:08 AM on October 20, 2010 [45 favorites]


I actually have a Motorola FONE that I bought last year when my old phone died. I don't really use cellphones that much so I figured something barebones would be ok for me. The box it came in actually had a "50 pesos" (or something) price tag on it (I paid like $18 so apparently got pretty ripped off). I don't think I believe the month of standby time but it's definitely super thin and light.

However, even having only ever used pretty basic phones I find the thing to be waaay sparse. I guess I'm spoiled by the first world but if I hadn't gotten a work-issued phone soon after I bought the Moto I probably would have ditched it long ago. I don't really text but sometimes people send me messages and they're pretty much impossible to read, plus the address book is pretty worthless.

That said, it's a great phone to take cycling.
posted by ghharr at 7:09 AM on October 20, 2010


Amen. These Nokia basic phones are tough little bastards. I've had 3-4 of them since the days of Cingular (now AT&T) and they are kid-proof and otherwise fairly indestructible.
posted by PuppyCat at 7:10 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's the phone you'd want in the zombie apocalypse.

CNN: The most trusted name in news.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:11 AM on October 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


Still, I hope the Motorola FONE catches on. E-ink screen

Yeah, but the screen is segmented, not pixel-based. So it can only display a few characters at a time and there are a lot of characters it can't display. Replace it with an E-ink screen on par with at least the first generation Kindle and then we can talk. As it is, it's almost useless for text.
posted by jedicus at 7:13 AM on October 20, 2010


That was my favorite phone... Rugged, with a flashlight, and the battery lasted a long time. Dustproof, waterproof nearly. No worries phone. I was going to hang on to mine forever, but a friend who borrowed it ended up sitting on it, and it broke. It was (is?) super popular in India.
posted by dhruva at 7:13 AM on October 20, 2010


My current phone is a Nokia 3310, and I've had it for about ten years. I had to replace the original battery, but that's it. In form it looks a lot like the 1100.

I am looking around for a semi-smartphone, however. I don't like the iPhone-style handsets (they seem simultaneously bulky and fragile), but the Nokia C3 looks alright. It's being marketed in Australia as a smartphone for teenagers, and retails for about $130.
posted by Ritchie at 7:13 AM on October 20, 2010


They were enormously popular in the UK in about 1999/2000. There was a booming industry in interchangeable 'fascias' for it.
posted by mippy at 7:18 AM on October 20, 2010


I had a 1100. It survived incredible scrapes and worked like a charm. It got stolen and I was very upset that I couldn't get an identical replacement. Also, that flashlight is the most useful cellphone accessory I've ever had. I got a Nokia 6315 instead, which, again, has turned out to be incredibly durable, but damn if it couldn't use a flashlight.
posted by Kattullus at 7:22 AM on October 20, 2010


Still, I hope the Motorola FONE catches on. E-ink screen, a month of standby time, hundreds of hours of talk time on one charge, virtually unbreakable and quite stylish. It's the phone you'd want in the zombie apocalypse. It almost makes me feel like phones have been moving in the wrong direction.

I had one, and used it for about a year while living in Europe. It did a lot of things right, and fell far short in some other respects.

The E-Ink screen was cool, except for the fact that you had no idea when the battery died, unless you happened to notice that the clock was wrong. Still, the high contrast was awesome (albeit completely unnecessary thanks to the UK's gloom-tacular weather).

On the other hand, the screen sucked. On a dirt-cheap phone, I agree that resolution shouldn't matter -- however, in this case, the screen could only display about 10 numbers or characters at a time -- and did so using a multi-segmented display (like a digital clock), which meant that you got no punctuation or capitalization in your contacts and messages.

Back to the positive, the long battery life was a HUGE plus, and the phone's design was really, really great -- stylish, and more rugged than most. Definite proof that good design can have a place in low-end devices (nay -- *should* have a place in low-end devices).

Back to the bad -- although the battery life while in standby was indeed AWESOME, it'd drain in a matter of hours hour if it lost its signal, and didn't have a particularly remarkable battery life in terms of talk time. Also, the screen's backlight was reallly dim. No using this phone for a flashlight.

All in all, a great concept with a mildly-flawed execution. I'd like to see what Moto could do with an updated version of this phone at the same price point. The screen really needed improvement.
posted by schmod at 7:24 AM on October 20, 2010


My mother needs a new phone. One that she can throw in her purse, use for calls and the occasional text message and has decent battery life. And at 80 plus years old, it should be easy to use and easy to read. This might just be it.

My grandmother had one, so I can confirm that someone over 80 can manage it just fine.

The super-long battery life has its downsides, though: my Nokia tends to die at the wrongest times because I keep forgetting that you need to charge it every once in a while.
posted by daniel_charms at 7:24 AM on October 20, 2010


I have a Nokia 6101 that's going on ~6 years now. It was one of their first flip phones. I've dropped the thing so many times and both the external screen and camera lens are smashed, but the inside screen is fine and it still works well enough for texting and calling.

I hate that I'm probably paying a rate to my carrier that assumes I'll be getting a new subsidized phone every two years. I also hate that there are separate plans for voice, texts, and "data" when EVERYTHING that goes through the antenna is data.

I figure I'll buy a smart phone eventually, but considering my level of phone abuse, I need it to be pretty sturdy and I'd like it to be small.
posted by cman at 7:25 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also: My guess is that the next big thing in the developing world will be keyboard phones, and a proliferation of SMS. A rugged, cheap version of the LG eNV would be a hit, and offer a marked step up from the Nokia 1100, without adding too much to manufacturing costs.
posted by schmod at 7:26 AM on October 20, 2010


Well, the 3310 is quite a bit larger than the 1100. But the 3310 was one seriously sturdy phone. :)
posted by bardophile at 7:27 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Great article.

I kind of miss having a Nokia brick phone sometimes - it did what it did, and it did it well. Somehow I can't see the dodgy looking thing at the bottom of the article catching on on quite the same way.
posted by Artw at 7:28 AM on October 20, 2010


"competent customer service"

I couldn't wrap my head around that combination of words.
posted by HuronBob at 7:29 AM on October 20, 2010


If you spend hours thumbing through pages of apps, scoffing at less-than-perfect software upgrades and grousing about screen resolution and pixel density, it's easy to forget that the very concept of a mobile phone is a miracle. It's a device that shrinks your day to day world into a single point, making you simultaneously accessible to and able to access nearly everyone you know, instantly and everywhere.

This is so true, both in the positive and the negative senses. I can't think of everyday life without my crappy, scratched-screen, olive-puke-green Samsung t109, even though it constantly annoys the shit out of me just looking at it and I can't wait to replace it with something better.
posted by blucevalo at 7:31 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The article reminds me of the ubiquitous Casio F91W watch, previously.
posted by exogenous at 7:31 AM on October 20, 2010


The best thing about those old Nokia phones is their user interface was clean and intuitive. The first day I had my Nokia 2600 I was accessing every feature it had without any need for the user manual. The Motorola I had around the same time was horrible by comparison.
posted by rocket88 at 7:38 AM on October 20, 2010


So it ... just makes phone calls?

I don't get it.
posted by timdicator at 7:39 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Probably nearly identical (except a little more rugged) then my Nokia 8K something or other I first got in 2000 for like $400.
posted by delmoi at 7:40 AM on October 20, 2010


I had a 1100 when I was traveling in Europe, and a Nokia 3310 before that. Almost everyone who saw either one of those phones said to me, "Oh look at your phone. I had this exact phone two, no three years ago!"

When I had my 3310 all my friends had 1100s, and by the time I got my 1100 everyone had upgraded to something else. They were both great little phones. I never worried about them getting lost or stolen. I could talk on them, text, and play snake. They did everything a phone should.
posted by Hoenikker at 7:42 AM on October 20, 2010


Companies know that the US and Europe are saturated markets where what disposable income is not spoken for is a increasingly smaller share. If you want growth, you either have to invent the successor to sliced bread and hype it as such (iPad style), and hope that knock offs don't kill your profits too quickly, or you have to leverage human rights organizations and "donate" cell tower structure in favor of immediately creating a new market to dominate.

The first is a gamble and it means you have to really know what consumer preference is for. The second is basically applying the most successful known product to a new market at a price relative to the cost of living in that area. Moreso, these people have their standard of living increase as companies offshore there and that means that more than likely these people have a higher wage. Higher wages mean more disposable income in the short term - and what better way to profit then to build a system to extract that wealth back from the customer.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:43 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


What the luxurious solid feel of some phones tells not only how exquisite their engineering is, but that the phone has no allowance to soften blows to its frame. Once hit, the force spreads until it finds a soft or fragile spot. If it is a seam between parts, or flexy plasticy part, then good -- if it is a very special engineered perfectly-fitted glass, then damn. Phones that 'feel cheap' are often those that are made to last.
posted by Free word order! at 7:43 AM on October 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh, yeah, the flashlight! Aside from size, that's the only difference between the 3310 and the 1100. I remember when I discovered my new phone had a flashlight; I felt like I'd really arrived.
posted by Hoenikker at 7:46 AM on October 20, 2010


"They'll be 90% of the phone for 20% of the price, with FM radios instead of digital music stores, and flashlights instead of LED flashes."

Dear gawd, I seriously want one.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:47 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


So it ... just makes phone calls?

I don't get it.


yeah. with a flashlight!
not even Back to the Future saw that one coming.
posted by mannequito at 7:47 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Usually, "most popular" does not mean "best". Take Britney Spears or Lady Gaga as an example.

However, in this case, the 3310 and 1100 are really some of the best products Nokia ever made.
posted by DreamerFi at 7:49 AM on October 20, 2010


I like the idea of the e-ink FONE much better than the reality. Not being able to text properly is really a deal breaker.
posted by smackfu at 7:50 AM on October 20, 2010




Nice antidote to the iPhone Bigger, Better Deal hype that I fall into.

Just read about the Taxco as well. It has color screen, full keyboard, MP3 player, flashlight, camera, Web browsing, SMS, apps, an FM radio tuner, and it also shows TV. $70 without contract.
posted by acheekymonkey at 7:54 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


.. and everything they since made is crap, and here's why
posted by DreamerFi at 7:57 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remain a Nokia loyalist for the sheer durability of the phones. I currently use an E63 ($175 new unsubsidized and unlocked, wifi, bluetooth, FM radio). Symbian is clunky and slow and there is no touchscreen. But I swear I could drop it from a 10th story window. It has endured countless hours of sub-zero temps and rough handling in the Alaskan bush. I'm just intensely loyal to Nokia. Every great phone I have owned has been one of theirs, and by great I mean indestructible. When I want to really browse the web or write email, I tether my iPod touch through the Nokia, works great. I also need a speakerphone constantly, and the E63 works great for that. I won't use AT&T, so I'm still waiting to go iPhone, but not before this thing dies, and from the looks of it that will be a while.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:58 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


And yet the stock continues to languish. Grrrr!
posted by Askr at 7:58 AM on October 20, 2010


Those old-style Nokias are great, with simple navigation: you move up and down, choose something, or go back.

And the best modern smartphones are great, with simple navigation: you use your finger to click on things, drag them around, etc.

For years, the problem has been the vast array of phones in the middle. They're virtually all crap, with some of the features of the smartphones but none of the usability of either extreme. Companies like Nokia completely lost sight of basic usability principles and software quality.

A while back I had to try out a mid-range touchscreen phone for some work and it just blew my mind how bad it was. The thing was an unusable piece of junk, and if they'd told me I could keep it I'd have binned it or given it to someone I don't like.
posted by malevolent at 7:59 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nokia: Destructing People
posted by Flashman at 8:01 AM on October 20, 2010


Apparently you can resell a Nokia 1100 for up to $32000.

Funny, I was just about to comment wondering why so many were up on eBay at ridiculously high asking prices with the prominent comment that they were German-made.
posted by exogenous at 8:04 AM on October 20, 2010


Nokia: Destructing People

This comment is needlessly inflammatory. It's obvious that IEDs would use the cheapest, most widely available components.
posted by odinsdream at 8:17 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


As of early 2009, it has been in the news due to a firmware flaw in a batch of phones that were manufactured in a plant in Bochum, Germany.

Germany? Nokia makes low-end phones in unionized, socialist, high tax Germany?

There are reasons nothing is made in America anymore and none of the above have anything to do with this - apparently.
posted by three blind mice at 8:18 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I still use a Nokia 1100 exactly like the one pictured. I just don't understand why I would need anything else. It is indestructable, I can take it to any nation and swap sim cards, it holds a charge for a week, and it does everything I need a phone to do, text and make calls. Oh, and it has a flashlight built in and it will play the Alabama fight song when my brother calls.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:29 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Germany? Nokia makes low-end phones in unionized, socialist, high tax Germany?

Probably one German supervising all the robots.
posted by smackfu at 8:30 AM on October 20, 2010


I had a work issued 1100 up until just earlier this year when they gave us all BlackBerrys. So instead of having to carry my personal smartphone that does every thing I want, and a lightweight, nearly indestructible but feature free Nokia I can drop in another pocket and forget about, I have to lug around another heavy ass smart phone that has been given a lobotomy so that I can't install any dangerous applications on it.

I hated that Nokia (it was my corporate leash, after all) until I realized the alternative was much suckier.
posted by quin at 8:33 AM on October 20, 2010


My ancient Nokia STILL works. The keyboard numbers and letters have totally rubbed off so I am guessing every time I actually have to dial a number and I can't text at all whatsoever, but it still has pretty good battery and has held up.

I'm well aware that I need to cave in and buy another phone (probably a smartphone, as everyone tells me), and people tell me that my lack of texting ability is a HUGE PROBLEM. Sigh. I don't look forward to that day, though. And not just because I loathe having to talk to salespeople.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:37 AM on October 20, 2010


malevolent wrote: "Those old-style Nokias are great, with simple navigation: you move up and down, choose something, or go back."

Ironically, that's exactly how Symbian works, yet it's constantly lambasted as being old and creaky. (on non-touch devices, you can actually set it to only show you one menu item at a time, just like the dumbphones and feature phones) Nokia, however, doesn't buy that and is moving Symbian downmarket precisely so they can maintain or expand market share in developing countries. Android's hardware requirements are too high to profitably build a $50 phone with any sort of durability, so I suspect they will continue to do well in those markets.

The lack of high profit margins in handset sales is exactly why they have been pushing hard into services, whether it be email, money transfer, or the foodstuff pricing mentioned in the article.

Regarding Nokia's manufacturing, most of their stuff is manufactured in China these days, although they also make stuff in Finland, Germany, Brazil, and a couple of southeast Asian nations. And that's just what I can think of that I've seen on the labels of the phones I've personally owned.
posted by wierdo at 8:38 AM on October 20, 2010


So I am one of the folks out here that does not have a smart phone.

I didn't have a cell phone until a few years ago. My wife made me get one when we both traveled to New York on separate flights and needed to meet up. I paid $80 (!!) for a Nokia 6010 and I still use it.

The phone is very sturdy--I've dropped it from some serious heights--sound quality is good; text messages are pricey ($.20) but certainly functional; the battery used to last me a week, but I think it's fading a little--I recharge every 3-4 days. I pre-pay at 10 cents/minute, and average about $10/month.

It's not only the developing world that wants a normal, cheap, mobile phone.

so if you look in your pocket and see a Blackberry, most likely you're "the man".

And vice versa, just because I don't have a BlackBerry, Droid, or iPhone doesn't mean that I'm not "the man." I'm nearly positive that I am.

Woohoo!

I think "the man" here refers to "little Eichmanns," not "you're-the-man-now" dawgs.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:02 AM on October 20, 2010


Pshaw. Amy Sedaris has a better cell phone than all y'all. (skip to 5:15)
posted by fungible at 9:04 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, am I correct in theorizing that the only reason the FONE isn't currently the greatest, most widely-selling cell phone in the history of all time simply because it uses an old v1 e-ink screen that doesn't work with text messaging?

Is that it? Replace the screen with the an updated e-ink screen and prepare to start receiving bulk cargo shipments of hundred-dollar-bills?
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:09 AM on October 20, 2010


(disclosure: one of those hundreds would be mine, because that's all I want in a phone)
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:09 AM on October 20, 2010


I figure I'll buy a smart phone eventually, but considering my level of phone abuse, I need it to be pretty sturdy and I'd like it to be small

YES. I would like a phone about the size of a Sandisk MP3 player, i.e. one that fits inside the change pocket of my jeans.

I hate the fact that I'm expected to walk around with a phone, and every phone I've ever seen is too big to fit in my pocket. I want something that can fit on a keychain.

Even the Yun Chi is too big for my taste.

Germany? Nokia makes low-end phones in unionized, socialist, high tax Germany?

There are reasons nothing is made in America anymore and none of the above have anything to do with this - apparently.


Why Germany Has It So Good -- and Why America Is Going Down the Drain
posted by mrgrimm at 9:18 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


My cell phone (the only phone I have) makes and receives calls. Period.

Funny, if I could turn off a single feature of my (Droid) cell phone, it would be the ability to make phone calls. GPS, music player, internet, calendar syncing, various apps (TripIt!) -- these things are worth twice what I pay in subscription fees.

Unfortunately, I occasionally need a phone number for business purposes. But most months I use zero minutes.

These are the months that I'm most happy.
posted by coolguymichael at 9:26 AM on October 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Well how many gee-beez does it have? I want the one with more gee-beez.
posted by Mister_A at 9:30 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Funny, if I could turn off a single feature of my (Droid) cell phone, it would be the ability to make phone calls. GPS, music player, internet, calendar syncing, various apps (TripIt!) -- these things are worth twice what I pay in subscription fees.

Yeah, sometimes I do wonder if what I need is a Nokia brick and then a seperate tablety thing for all of that crap.
posted by Artw at 9:35 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


This article should be required reading for all those corporate drones tasked with designing products for emerging markets. Too often they merely end up pushing last year's US market cast offs.
posted by caddis at 9:43 AM on October 20, 2010


I had a Nokia 1100 for almost 3 years, and abused the hell out of it. It's an awesome phone.
posted by jb at 9:46 AM on October 20, 2010


Actually, I have my mom's perfectly good one at home - anyone know a good place to get one unlocked in Toronto? Because Rogers is the worst company on the planet.
posted by jb at 9:49 AM on October 20, 2010


mrgrimm wrote: "YES. I would like a phone about the size of a Sandisk MP3 player, i.e. one that fits inside the change pocket of my jeans."

Very few phones that I've owned over the years don't meet that standard. I presently have one that is unable to fit because it's too thick, but my E75 did. And it had a slide-out keyboard. ;)

jb, I believe that one can have the unlock code generated for free. Just don't keep trying random codes without asking people who know. A few years ago I could have told you exactly which settings to use to generate the proper code, but I've long since forgotten.

If not, I'm fairly sure that several of the reputable third party dealers in GTA also do unlocking. I can't think of any names off the top of my head, though.
posted by wierdo at 10:17 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nokia has my business until they turn out to be monsters who shoot dogs for fun. I've never had a single problem with any of their low-end freebie phones. (Unlike Motorola. Never again.) As far as phone calls go, they sure make them! For everything else, the iPod Touch does quite nicely.
posted by Skot at 10:17 AM on October 20, 2010


It's great that Nokia is studying and making something for the developing world, but they're still going to get killed by Indian and Chinese companies making more featureful if less carefully designed phones with a much lower price than Nokia ever could.
posted by thefool at 11:05 AM on October 20, 2010


Given that Nokia can profitably sell a feature phone with a low end camera for $20 or less or a well featured touch screen smart phone for under $100, I don't think they're in great danger of being undercut by anyone.

What they are in danger of (and has been happening) is having their overall profit margin squeezed due to falling sales of high end handsets, largely thanks to increasing subsidization by carriers here in the US and their failure to get in on that action.
posted by wierdo at 11:10 AM on October 20, 2010


I got a Casio GZOne recently, as a hand-me-down from a friend whose work bought him a new one. I have to say, it's the first mobile phone I've had in the last 7 or 8 years that I don't utterly hate. It's fat and heavy, but most of the fat is the extra-life battery, and the thing stays charged for a week no problem. Besides that, though, it's waterproof (really truly waterproof -- I've seen it take calls while in the ocean, and I rotuinely kayak with it in a mesh pfd pocket), and pretty much indestructable.

I looked for one of these third-world zombie apocalypse type phones the last time I needed a new phone (particularly the Motofone), and was unable to find one. It seems they don't like to distribute them to Americans, for fear we'll stop buying the overpriced, overfeatured crap they feed us.
posted by rusty at 11:28 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Funny, if I could turn off a single feature of my (Droid) cell phone, it would be the ability to make phone calls. GPS, music player, internet, calendar syncing, various apps (TripIt!) -- these things are worth twice what I pay in subscription fees.

Yeah, sometimes I do wonder if what I need is a Nokia brick and then a seperate tablety thing for all of that crap.


This is what we do. We each have an iPod Touch and a prepaid dumb phone. (Two LGs and a Motorola, and they all are meh. I'll wait until they die, but I'm thinking when it's time to replace them, I'm going to go with Nokia. A friend - a 21 year old college student, in fact- has had the same little indestructible Nokia since her senior year of high school.)

We live in an area that is probably unique- no 3G cell network, but we are covered by a very powerful university wifi/wimax network. You can get a GPS add on for the iPod, but we don't have a need for it and thus don't have one. But we text from the iPod, stream music, watch Netflix and YouTube, look stuff up, manage calenders, play games, view recipes (Google doc syncing with my iPod and my Kindle = best cookbook ever), etc. Cheaper than most smartphones at $175, and no monthly mortgage.

Because we mostly text, the three of us spend ~$10/mo, total, on cell service. Everything else we do via wifi on our iPods.

This has some disadvantages. The cameras on our dumb phones are even worse than the iPhone camera (which is nowhere near any standalone camera I've ever had), and of course there are more devices to carry. The other disadvantage is that I am something of an Apple... not exactly a hater, but certainly a critic. I have often wished Android made an equivalent to the iPod Touch. That app that turns audio from YouTube into music files? Swoon. And I don't give a rip about HTML5, everything runs on Flash! I want Flash!

That said, I've got to give it up to Apple, because if I run out of the house technologically naked, I miss my iPod more than my phone.
posted by Leta at 11:48 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's great that Nokia is studying and making something for the developing world, but they're still going to get killed by Indian and Chinese companies making more featureful if less carefully designed phones with a much lower price than Nokia ever could.

Nokias real talent is in production and distribution. Their industrial supply chain is more efficient than most others which is ultimately the thing that allowed them to reach number one in number of sets sold. They will be very hard to better on price. However this kind of talent is not as important in the market of smartphones since volumes are so much lower there.
posted by Catfry at 11:49 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had the US version of the Nokia for about 5 years. Once I left it on a mantle, powered on, before leaving for a 2 week vacation, and when I returned it was still on.

I finally got rid of it because (1) the battery died and the cost to replace it was more than the cost of a new subsidized phone, and (2) my wife has an employer provided smartphone and had fallen in love with texting, and the Nokia is a PITA to text from. So I went to the Sprint store (I know, I know, but my employer pays for my phone too) and said "I want the dumbest phone you have with a full keyboard for texting." Turned out to be a LG Rumor. Works OK as a phone, battery does last nearly a week, keyboard is great. But the user interface navigation sucks, and it's fortunate I only use a few functions; if I really tried to do a lot of diverse stuff with it it would be miserable.
posted by localroger at 12:48 PM on October 20, 2010


That explains why the scammy "legitimate mobile phone dealer" forum spam from Nigeria includes long lists of phones from Nokia and Ericsson, with only a few models that North Americans would recognize.
posted by elmwood at 2:03 PM on October 20, 2010


See also.
posted by everichon at 2:27 PM on October 20, 2010


Nokia 3210 (first phone evah) <> iPhone 2 < iPhone 3GS. Apparently the original iPhone is where my heart's at. Although I did love the 3210. Handset nerd.
posted by Lleyam at 2:40 PM on October 20, 2010


Maybe Apple should buy Nokia. In 1996.
posted by Lleyam at 3:03 PM on October 20, 2010


Nokia: Destructing People

If you want to take a stand against a mobile phone company, may I recommend Motorola? They manufacture chips for anti-personnel mines that have been blowing the legs off children and livestock for going on three decades now.
posted by Ritchie at 5:10 PM on October 20, 2010


Actually, on the assumption someone might ask for a cite on that comment I did some checking and it looks like Motorola have stopped making those chips, specifically because of their use in landmines. So I spoke too soon.
posted by Ritchie at 5:15 PM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Earlier this summer, I was somewhat drunk at a marvelous backyard BBQ, and for some reason I felt the conversation would be enhanced by taking my phone out of my pocket and hurling it over my shoulder. It peaked at about 30 feet before falling back to the earth where it hit a brick and skittered to a halt.

As a result, my cheap Nokia phone now has a tiny scratch on the front. Still works great. Let's see your iPhone do that.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:58 PM on October 20, 2010


I got a Casio GZOne recently

Damn you for sending me on a trail that ultimately lead me to discover the Exilim Mobile, which is my Perfect Phone (good camera, adequate video, ruggedized), but isn't availble in New Zealand, or, it appears, anywhere else in the world any more.
posted by rodgerd at 2:37 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have that phone! I have had it for six years now, no glitches. I am a major klutz, and whenever I meet someone else who has it we swap stories like "oh that time I left it in the rain", "once I dropped it in the washing up" etcetera. The battery life is also pretty good (I charge it up once a week).

I guess the more interesting story here is that different markets need different things from technology, and companies are catching on to this to make those products -- but one or two more anecdotes about how I dropped my phone from the roof and it survived can't hurt.
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 5:15 AM on October 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


thefool: It's great that Nokia is studying and making something for the developing world, but they're still going to get killed by Indian and Chinese companies making more featureful if less carefully designed phones with a much lower price than Nokia ever could.

As someone whose job it was to evaluate phones developed by these emerging markets, I can tell you that Nokia will not be killed until these manufacturers come up with hardware that doesn't feel cheap and plastic (it's amazing what adding a bit of rigidity and avoiding the use of gloss black can do) and a user interface that doesn't completely suck.

Every phone I've had the displeasure of trying has been ugly, complicated, buggy and downright inconsistent to use. Far from the cries of Series 30.
posted by mr_silver at 5:40 AM on October 21, 2010


Since we're talking about durability (this particular one is IP-54 certified, so it's more durable than most, but still!)

Nokia v. Golf Club
Nokia v. Pint of Beer
Nokia v. Gravity
Nokia v. Car (wait for the end)
posted by wierdo at 7:12 AM on October 21, 2010


I'm constantly surprised that Nokia hasn't released their short "Nokia versus X" series as a full-blown advertising campaign. Such a simple, effective message.
posted by Kattullus at 7:20 AM on October 21, 2010


We each have an iPod Touch and a prepaid dumb phone.

I have that. Partly because the iPhone 4 is stupidfingers expensive with or without a contract, but mainly because on long journeys with no or limited access to a charger I want my emergency contact device to not run off the same battery as my movie-watching, game-playing, book-and-comic-reading device (and god, is it an amazing book reader: my shitty wrists often couldn't cope with holding up the slimmest of paperbacks, but I can read on the iPod until the cows come home; all I wish now is that I could digitise all our existing books the way I did with all our CDs and DVDs). Plus the camera in the iPod is pretty shite but my K-series Sony pratphone takes delightful pictures.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:15 AM on October 21, 2010


Damn you for sending me on a trail that ultimately lead me to discover the Exilim Mobile

My last digital point n shoot was an Exilim (the camera line, not the phone). I loved that thing. Every picture needed to be color corrected and sharpened slightly, but always by the same amount, so it was routine. Otherwise, it was a terrific little camera. I think Casio doesn't get enough credit for making some really good devices.
posted by rusty at 9:54 AM on October 21, 2010




To be fair, Symbian and Avkon are the way they are because many modern C++ constructs simply didn't exist yet when they were first developed. The API is/was in dire need of streamlining, but I suppose if they keep all the hairy stuff to themselves by abstracting it away with Qt, that's a reasonable way to handle the problem.

However, it is an accurate statement that Symbian is, internally, a beautiful design in the sense that it's very modular and lightweight. It'll run in 8MB of memory on a 100MHz processor, no problem. If Nokia felt like it, they could wedge it onto the sort of hardware they stick S40 phones with and still get a week of battery life.

It's purpose built for mobile computing. Unfortunately, it was purpose built for mobile computing back in the mid-90s. This is both its greatest strength and greatest weakness.
posted by wierdo at 3:04 PM on October 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


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